Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed for the website. Can you start by letting the readers know your name, age and where you’re based please ?
My name is Lisa Butler I am 36 and I am based in Barry.
Fab. Thanks Lisa. Everyone interviewed on the site has some connection with facial disfigurement/ visible difference. Can I first ask which term (if any) you tend to use and what connection you have?
I have a portwine stain birthmark on my face, I use the term birthmark.
Ok and if you dont mind going back in time for a moment, did you ever feel ‘different’ to others because of your birthmark or did you just take it all in your stride?
I grew up in a neighbourhood that was really close knit, and I was treated the same as all the other children. I was extremely lucky to have amazing friends in school which accepted how I looked. I never felt any different to my siblings or friends.
Unfortunately it has not been quite the same experience whilst being an adult.
Its amazing that you had such a supportive start. Many of the people I speak with had a really tough time as children so its great that you were just accepted. When did that change and why? (if you know the reasons)
I know that I was really lucky and unfortunately not everyone has the same experience. I was friends with a lot of my friends since nursery so I guess they just accepted how I looked.
When i was 16 i got my first job in a restaurant/ takeaway. It wasn’t uncommon for customers to make comments such as “what have you done to your face?” , “have you been in a fight?” Or “what’s wrong with your face?”.
There are also situations where I can be in a supermarket for example and people will just stare. I know that those people don’t mean any harm but it’s such an uncomfortable feeling.
Even though we are on the receiving end of horrible comments sometimes it STILL shocks me that people would feel entitled to ask questions like that and pass comments. How did it affect you moving from the safety of friendship circles where you were accepted to having people judge and comment about you?
I am lucky that I am a fairly confident person, so although when someone catches me off guard with an insensitive question it hurts and embarrasses me, I don’t like to dwell in that feeling.
The majority of the time I think people are just being inquisitive about why I do look different, they are usually not trying to be mean. I try to use the opportunity to explain about my birthmark.
Yes, I found that helps with my son too. A little education can go a long way. So have you never felt that you wanted to cover your birthmark with the make ups that are available? I know its an option for some and equally, something that some people dont feel they need.
When I was born, there was no treatments for birthmarks. Doctors offered my parents camouflage makeup to use on my birthmark to cover it up. My parents declined this offer because they wanted me to grow up accepting myself for how I looked. They didn’t want to cover my birthmark and give me the message that it should be hidden.
I wore high street branded makeup when I was older, but it was more to cover any spots not to cover my birthmark. I did learn how to apply camouflage makeup a couple of years ago but I don’t tend to use it.
I don’t think there is any right or wrong when it comes to camouflage makeup. I think if you like wearing makeup or it helps you feel more comfortable then that is ok, but also it’s ok if you don’t wear makeup. It’s definitely a personal choice.
I agree and I love that your parents wanted you to know you were beautiful enough as you were. I love that you have written ‘owner of a portwine stain birthmark’ on your twitter account. Its such a positive phrase. Do you feel that your birthmark has played any role in your life at all or do you think you would still be the same person regardless?
Thank you, I do try and keep a positive outlook. I definitely think my birthmark has played a big role in my life. I think it has helped me to know not to judge anyone on how they look, to be compassionate, to be kind, and to understand that beauty is not just one thing, beauty comes in many many different forms.
Such a powerful statement! Is this something that you have passed on to your children too? Do you think they are more accepting of others than they might otherwise have been?
My children have all been asked at some point “what’s wrong with your mum’s face”, and they always respond by just explaining that it is a birthmark and it is something I was born with.
I do try and teach my children that everyone is beautiful, it doesn’t matter what they look like.
Ugh! Again, horrible that children are asked that but I guess the curiosity is natural at times.
I have seen that you are admin on a group for people with birthmarks. Do you want to tell us a bit about that? Where could people find more information?
I am one of the admins for Birthmark Support Groups Facebook page (website – www.birthmarksupportgroup.org.uk). I have also worked closely with Love Disfigure, and the British Skin Foundation and Changing Faces kindly regularly feature my blog posts on their social media. I think that being able to talk to other people with disfigurments is invaluable, and all these organisations are all doing such amazing positive work.
As I have become older and more and more comfortable in my own skin I have wanted to become more involved with charities to help others with disfigurements in anyway I can.
I think thats fantastic! I’m sure you have covered this in your own blog (which I will link to at the bottom for people to visit) but what would your advice be to anyone with a birthmark who might be struggling with their self confidence or the reactions of others?
With a birthmark it can sometimes feel like you are the only one in the world that looks the way you do. I know that I don’t have anyone else in family or friends that have a facial birthmark like mine. It’s ok to not to be ok, try and reach out to one of the amazing charities/ organisations and talk to someone that understands how you are feeling.
I know you write your own blog. Would you like to mention a bit about why you started writing it and the sort of things you blog about?
I took part in a Chanel 4 programme called Katie Pipers Face to Face. After it aired a lady called Sylvia from Love Disfigure contacted me, she encouraged me to write about my experiences, thoughts, feelings etc. And I did. I have written about my life experiences such as being stared at, what it was like growing up with a facial birthmark and also positive pieces too about how I’m comfortable not wearing makeup. I hope that it will help someone with a disfigurement feel they are not alone, but also if a parent has a child with a birthmark then I hope my blog will provide some reassurance to them too.
I am sure it will. Its so powerful to hear from someone who has been where you are now. I think it gives hope on the bad days and confidence on the good ones. The link to read Lisa’s blog is here. Thanks again for taking part Lisa
Lisa has written some fantastic, informative guest blogs and articles for the ‘Be Real’ campaign
and ‘Disability talks’ website.
She has also featured in articles for Glamour Magazine
and The Sun newspaper.
They are all fantastic reads so please do check them out!